Cookie dough? Cookie dough contaminated with E. coli O157:H7?

In yet another example of different jurisdictions having different opinions about when to go public, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sent out a press release last night urging Coloradans not to eat raw Nestle Toll House cookie dough because of possible contamination with E. coli O157:H7.

If the link is proven, cookie dough would join a long list of foods like produce, pet food, peanut butter and pot pies that consumers really have very little control over; it’s up to the producers and processors. Which makes various consumer education programs like FightBac sorta backwards. Consumers have a role in food safety, but not with this stuff.

Colorado state health officials, the CDC and several other state health departments are investigating an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections.

To date, 66 cases from 28 states have been identified. Preliminary evidence from the multi-state investigation suggests that Nestle Toll House cookie dough may be the source of the outbreak, although further investigation is ongoing.

Five cases have been reported in Colorado in the following counties: Denver, Douglas (2), Jefferson and Weld. Two of the people have been hospitalized, and one has developed a severe complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome. Of the four people interviewed so far by the state health department, all had consumed the raw cookie dough during the week before they became ill.

Alicia Cronquist, the foodborne disease epidemiologist at the state health department, said,

“We can’t be certain that raw cookie dough is the source of these infections, but we are concerned enough that it might be and want consumers to be aware.”

Daniel Rifkin, Wholesale Food Program manager for the Department of Public Health and Environment’s Consumer Protection Division, said,

“Nestle is currently evaluating what actions they will take regarding their product. In the meantime, it is important that consumers do not eat or use raw Nestle Toll House cookie dough for now. If you decide to use the product, ensure that the cookies are cooked thoroughly and wash your hands well after handling the raw dough. More information will be forthcoming.”